I ought to be writing a post about Mumsnet Workfest on Saturday, to which I won a ticket with this post a few weeks ago, and about which I’m very excited. I ought, actually, to be doing some real work myself, so this will be brief.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve been thinking a lot about work this week. Maybe it’s the prospect of Saturday, or maybe it’s the news agenda this week; perhaps both, but there seem to have been a slew of articles and stories about employment.
There was Gaby Hinsliff’s piece in The Times on the “mumback”, the phenomenon of stay at home mothers hanging up their designer aprons and returning to their successful careers. Although neither adjective applies to me, it’s my own dilemma, albeit one which I acknowledge is a candidate for the “my diamond shoes are too tight” category of non-problems. Last week’s furore, of course, was over whether professional women working part time were being unfair to their employers; though handily this week there were cheery headlines that children of working mums suffer no academic disadvantage (although with the proviso on quality and consistency of childcare provision buried deep in the coverage).
Meanwhile, there was a piece in the Telegraph about large increases in stay at home mothers and pensioners returning to the workplace, while unemployment among young people continues to rise (in my own region, now almost 1 in 4 of under 25s don’t have work) , and another about workers suffering “unprecedented wage cuts” to keep their jobs. Zoe Williams wrote a blistering attack on the notion that it is benefits, not low wages, which are holding back the economy, even as members of the GLA called for the suspension of the minimum wage – and the Child Poverty Action Group pointed out that two thirds of children living in poverty live in households where parents work.
The Coalition has made no secret of its aim to get as many people working as possible, by removal of benefits across the board. I’m sure bigger brains than mine can and will draw more sense from the overall picture of “work” in the UK in 2013, but I’m just left wondering: when did work stop being a means to an end, and become accepted as an unequivocably Good Thing – even when for so many it doesn’t fulfil its original purpose?